Ray Kurzweil Wants to Be a Robot

I was pleasantly surprised by this Newsweek article on Ray Kurzweil: it’s critical of him! Usually, and especially from the technopress magazines, there’s this kind of fawning attitude towards him, because he really is a smart guy — they overlook the fact that he is also a bit of a kook. You know what I think of him, and the reporter interviewed me for a short comment, too.

Still, a lot of people think Kurzweil is completely bonkers and/or full of a certain messy byproduct of ordinary biological functions. They include P. Z. Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota, Morris, who has used his blog to poke fun at Kurzweil and other armchair futurists who, according to Myers, rely on junk science and don’t understand basic biology. “I am completely baffled by Kurzweil’s popularity, and in particular the respect he gets in some circles, since his claims simply do not hold up to even casually critical examination,” writes Myers. He says Kurzweil’s Singularity theories are closer to a deluded religious movement than they are to science. “It’s a New Age spiritualism—that’s all it is,” Myers says. “Even geeks want to find God somewhere, and Kurzweil provides it for them.”

There’s another point of similarity to New Age religious figures, too. Every time I criticize these guys, I have to brace myself for another flood of hate mail. The Kurzweil Kult members are going to read this Newsweek article, see my name on the first page, and send me little disquisitions on how I’ll be sorry when the nanobots dismantle me and upload my brain into the cosmic computer. I should have warned the writer, Daniel Lyons, that he can expect some earnest dissenting technobabble to be coming his way.